One of the most significant contributors to our energy usage is lighting. Most lighting installations in the past have used high-pressure sodium lamps; however, these lamps produce a yellowish light that does not allow for good visibility. They also use a ton more power and discharge more heat than LED fixtures. This old-style lighting can be upgraded in two ways, using an LED fixture and installing a solar lighting system.
LED lights provide a whiter and more natural light to provide better lighting overall, and even though they look brighter than HPS lamps, they are much dimmer than these old lamps. In addition, switching to LED lights offers significant cost savings since the amount of power required to light these fixtures is much less, with a much lower power loss factor. Best of all, they generate a fraction of the heat compared to the old-style fixtures.
The US Department of Transportation recently did a study in July 2014, Maximizing Pedestrians’ Perception of Safety Using Light Source Spectrum, that reviews the differences between the old style HPS lamps and the new LED light sources. The study shows how pedestrians perceive lighting in urban and suburban areas that need to walk along the roadways at night. They found that people felt safer and more secure when the LED light sources were used even though the light levels were reduced from the old HPS lamps.
As roadway lighting accounts for 59 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, switching to LEDs can save upwards of 30% of energy on just the lighting of our roads. If they are connected to the grid, just switching to a lower-powered LED fixture can be the best step to lower the power used for lighting.
Also, by switching to a directional fixture, you can reduce the impact on the night sky with light pollution. Light pollution impacts the natural environment by changing the migration patterns of birds, wake-sleep habits, and habitat formation. Instead, ensuring the new fixtures are dark-sky certified will guarantee you reduce the impact of the lighting on nature.
If grid power doesn’t exist and you need to illuminate an area, using solar LED lights would be the next logical step. Solar doesn’t require access to grid power to provide the required lighting for a space. Solar lights also don’t add to the electrical grid usage for lighting, reducing the power consumption of the US.
Finally, if you want to update an area, changing old lights to new off-grid solar lights can provide long-term cost savings. The ROI is not as quick on projects like this; however, within 5-10 years, the lights will pay for themselves. If a quality system is installed and regular maintenance is followed, a commercial solar lighting system can last 25+ years.
Off-grid solar lighting is not always an option for a project installation due to costs or other factors. Adding solar panels to the light poles as they have done in New Jersey would also work to reduce our power consumption while increasing our energy efficiency all over. This solution is not the best solution; however, it is a start in the right direction. While solar power continues to grow, a move toward solar LED lights will increase safety and security while providing a zero-energy option for new installations, not adding to our already extended use of grid power.
Ultimately, switching to LED lighting will reduce our power consumption and provide additional safety and security to pedestrians and drivers. In addition, increased visibility is always great; LED lights will provide the needed lighting levels to do so. Solar lighting can take you to that last step to completely eliminate the power requirement from the grid.